The environmentalists of Patagonia marched Saturday morning downtown Santiago where organizers hosted live shows and information sessions. The giant hydroelectric dam project known as HidroAys‚n was announced in 2006 for southern Chile's Aysùn Region XI. Its promoters are two of the largest electric companies in the country, ENDESA Cile (Enel Group) and Colb__n S.A.
Proponents say that HidroAysùn would be an efficient way to grapple with Chile growing energy needs. Opponents say the project overlooks less environmentally harmful alternatives such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy and making current hydroelectric plants in the central and southern regions more efficient. They also oppose the construction of over 2,200 kilometers of transmission line that would have to pass through national parks and private land in Patagonia and regions north in order to bring HidroAys‚n electricity to where it's needed: in Chile's central valleys and the Metropolitan Region that surrounds Santiago.
"HidroAys‚n is not necessary for Chile. We' be lying if we said our future energy needs were dependent on a single project," said former Minister of the Environment Ana Lya Uriarte. When these businesses say that Chile will suffer without the projects, they are speaking from personal interest and not from what is in the interest of all Chileans."
A 2009 study by five post-graduate engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) working in the Ays‚n Region found that the sedimentation produced by some of the dams would lower water levels in glacial lakes and also estimated the total emission of CO2 for their construction and operation of the plants to be roughly four million tons. The engineers concluded that it is in Chile's best interests to at least consider alternative sources of energy.
A 2009 study by researchers at the Universidad de Chile, ª›Se Necesitan Represas en la Patagonia? -, argued that Chile's energy needs were being met and can continue to be met in ways much more simple than proponents of HidroAysùn had claimed, and that additional plant construction in Patagonia was not necessary.
The HidroAys‚n project threatens 12 protected forest reserves, with 15,645 hectars devastated by the plants, and further 4.6 million hectares of degraded natural landscapes. A high voltage power lines will cross the Patagonia to the capital, with 2,200 kilometers of high voltage lines, impacting on eight regions and 64 municipalities, threatening the promising tourist potential of the region. The dams will be build in seismic area, and they could turn into real time bombs.
Saturday's events was larger than in past years. In addition to the Santiago rally, similar events will also be held in Talca, Concepcion, Temuco and Coyhaique.
A "flash-mob" was organized also in front of the Permanent Mission of Chile to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, organized by Greenpeace and the Climate and Social Justice Coordination of Geneva, in cooperation with the Council for the Defense of Patagonia in Chile (Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia "- CDP). The activists were later moved to the Place des Nations to protest against dams in Patagonia.